July 10, 2020

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03/04 Links Pt1: Is Netanyahu’s Significant Victory Sufficient?; Human Rights Council Continues Gaslighting on Gaza; Iran’s Judo World Champion Mollaei to Fight For Mongolia in Tokyo


From Ian:

Ruthie Blum: Is Netanyahu’s Significant Victory Sufficient?
Which brings us to the importance of the election results, and the reason that Netanyahu and his supporters were celebrating on Monday night with confetti and all.

This election constituted a defeat of the “anybody but Bibi” hysteria. It represented a win for the sane center-right that believes in Netanyahu’s handling of domestic and foreign affairs, and strongly opposes the tyranny of the courts. It also illustrated that Israelis care about ideas and actions, and that they are not as swayed by empty slogans and outrageous assertions as certain politicians seem to imagine.

Take Gantz, for example, who has spent his campaign trying to out-Bibi on the one hand and accuse him — appallingly — of behaving like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the other. You know, the same Erdoğan who jails anyone who disagrees with him, including judges, lawyers, academics, and more journalists than any other autocrat or dictator in the world.

As all Israelis know, the only person in danger of getting locked up for his political views is Netanyahu himself. But never mind; the fact that he dares to criticize the police and Supreme Court is enough to stick him with the egregious label.

The good news is that Netanyahu is still Israel’s prime minister and likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. The bad news is that the makeup of the next government, if one is established without the need for a fourth election, could take weeks and be less than satisfactory to an electorate eager to move on.

Jonathan S. Tobin: Three Israeli elections reconfirm two basic facts

It took Israeli politics nearly a year to get back to square one.

That’s the basic fact to understand about the third round of general voting held within a year. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right to claim the vote as a personal victory, it is only by comparison to his near defeat last September that it can be viewed as a great triumph. Israel’s crazy political system may have exhausted and infuriated its citizens, but the three contests held in this period changed very little about the way the country is governed.

As was the case before the first vote, Netanyahu is still the country’s most popular politician, though arguments can be made that no one under indictment should stay in power, even if the charges against him are questionable. And yet, a critical mass of Israeli voters doesn’t agree, let alone buy the claim that Netanyahu is a threat to democracy or the rule of law. Though it shouldn’t have taken three elections to clarify that point, when Netanyahu goes, it will be either of his own volition (something that he doesn’t seem to contemplate in the foreseeable future) or because the judicial system takes him down. As long as his fate is in the hands of the voters, he will remain prime minister.

The other main conclusion concerns policy, and it is one that many commentators are ignoring. Though the rest of the world, including some of those running for president of the United States, still advocates for Israel to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians for peace, the vast majority of Israelis have more or less stopped discussing the issue. Even if many Americans refuse to accept reality, a broad consensus on the lack of a peace partner encompasses not only Netanyahu’s right-wing/religious bloc, but also the Blue and White Party, which campaigned on stands virtually identical to those of the prime minister.

These are two basic facts about the country that its foreign friends, and especially its critics, should take to heart.

With 99% of votes counted, right-wing bloc slips to 58 seats, 3 shy of majority

As votes cast in so-called double envelopes in the Knesset elections were being tallied, the Central Election Committee updated the count Wednesday morning, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the centrist rival Blue and White led by Benny Gantz an extra seat apiece, leaving the premier’s bloc of right-wing supporters at 58 seats.

After 99% of the votes were tallied, Likud gained a seat for a total of 36, with the rival Blue and White party also increasing its power from 32 to 33.

The Joint List of predominantly Arab parties dropped from 16 seats to 15, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party dropped from 10 seats to 9.

The rest of the parties’ seat totals remained the same: seven for United Torah Judaism (UTJ), seven for Yisrael Beytenu, seven for Labor-Gesher-Meretz and six for Yamina.

Based on those seat totals, Likud and its allies would have 58 seats combined. The right-wing religious bloc supporting Netanyahu — consisting of Likud, Shas, UTJ and Yamina — though, falls short of the 61 seats needed to form a government.

The counting of the “double envelope” ballots of soldiers, police staff, diplomats, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners began overnight and was expected to conclude later in the day.

NGO Monitor: Human Rights Council Continues Gaslighting on Gaza

On February 25, 2020, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the bureaucratic arm of the Human Rights Council, presented an update on the 2019 Commission of Inquiry into the violence along the Israel-Gaza border. As with previous UN pseudo-investigations on Israel, this COI ignored legal standards and readily and publicly available information to accuse Israel of “war crimes” and other violations. The 2020 update continued to promote this false narrative and the biased HRC agenda.

Notably, the fact that the debate did not take place under the HRC’s Agenda Item 7 – the only agenda item dedicated to singling out a specific country, Israel. Instead, due to Palestinian political maneuvers to circumvent the European refusal to participate in sessions under the notorious and discriminatory Agenda Item 7, OHCHR moved the debate to Item 2. The fact that OHCHR acquiesced to this political exploitation rather than comply with its mandate, as described under HRC Resolution 5/1, is another example why donors should rethink their funding of this UN agency.

During the debate, the Assistant Secretary General, acting on behalf of OHCHR, repeatedly referred to “Israeli security forces” as perpetrators of violations, while ignoring the role of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian armed groups in directing the Gaza riots. She falsely claimed that the riots are “civilian in nature” and “do not constitute combat or military campaigns,” and that it was “disturbing” that the IDF did not consider them as distinct from “the armed conflict with Gaza.”

These comments display significant ignorance of the facts and the law by the COI and OHCHR. As seen in evidence provided by NGO Monitor and others, the riots were clearly organized under a Hamas command and control structure and aimed at breaching the border to commit armed attacks on Israeli forces and civilian communities. In addition, per the Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 37, demonstrations that incite others or are based on violent intentions can in no way be considered peaceful and loses protection under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Furthermore, anyone directly participating in hostilities may be targeted legally with lethal force.

Trump to speak at Republican Jewish Coalition conference for second time

President Donald Trump will speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference for the second consecutive year.
The venue for the March 14 appearance, the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major benefactor of the RJC and Republican campaigns, including Trump’s.

Unlike his predecessors, Trump rarely enters into neutral or hostile political territory and thus mostly speaks to groups that favor him.

That preference extends to pro-Israel groups. Trump has not attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference since 2016, when the group rebuked him for disparaging then-sitting President Barack Obama from its stage.

In the last year, however, he has spoken to two groups that are favored by Adelson: the RJC and the Israeli American Council.

US State Department Approves Possible $2.4 Billion Sale of 8 KC-46 Jets to Israel

The US State Department has approved a possible $2.4 billion sale of eight KC-46 refueling tanker jets to Israel, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Tuesday in an official notification to Congress.

The potential deal is for up to eight of the jets made by Boeing, as well as spare equipment and radios.

The KC-46 aircraft, which refuels other aircraft mid-air, has been plagued with problems, including foreign object debris found in the planes and issues with the mechanism for delivering fuel.

Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty ‘at Risk,’ Says Jordanian Premier

Relations between Jordan and Israel are at their lowest ebb since the signing of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries, and the treaty itself is now “at risk,” Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said on Monday.

“Today, we are at the lowest level in the relationship that has been since signing the peace treaty,” Razzaz said in an interview with CNN. “The peace treaty can go into a deep freeze mode and therefore it is definitely at risk.”

According to Razzaz, Jordan is angry about Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria as set forth in the US “Prosperity to Peace” plan, and about Israeli “violations of the sanctity of Muslim and Christian endowments in Jerusalem.”

In January, Jordan’s King Abdullah told France 24 News that Israel’s relationship with his country “has been on pause for the past two years,” a predicament he said was likely due to Israel’s unsolved election issues.

“Because of the electioneering season, which has unfortunately taken a long time, there have been no bilateral communications or movement,” he said. “We hope that the Israeli people will decide on a government sooner rather than later, and then we could all see how to move forward.”

Serbia to open ‘official state office’ in Jerusalem as sign of ‘respect’ to Jews

Serbia is planning to open an “official state office” in Jerusalem, the country’s president announced Tuesday, joining a small number of countries that have diplomatic missions in the city.

“We are in a very complex situation in our region. And you should understand all the difficulties we are facing. But I want to say that we’re trying to find the best possible way to do something officially in Jerusalem,” Aleksandar Vučić told the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC.

“And we are going to open very soon not only an office of our Chamber of Commerce. But together with our Chamber of Commerce — the official state office in Jerusalem with Serbian official flag alongside with our embassy in Tel Aviv,” he said in his address. “That’s our way of showing respect to Jewish people.”

Israeli leaders welcomed the announcement.

President Reuven Rivlin thanked his Serbian counterpart, whom he called a “dear friend.” for the plans to open state representation in the capital. “Another sign of the strong and deep relations between our countries and peoples. May many others follow,” he tweeted.

Former top Obama official accused of blaming Jews for Iranian nuclear stockpile

Former Obama aide Ben Rhodes received blowback on Twitter for suggesting that Iran was able to triple its nuclear stockpile of enriched uranium in four months because of American Jews.

The United Nations announced Tuesday that Iran has nearly tripled the amount of enriched uranium it has since November.

Rhodes was President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser and helped craft the Iran nuclear deal with world powers, which placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program at the time.

“I hope everyone at AIPAC can do a victory lap for tripling Iran’s stockpile,” Rhodes said.

Critics on social media immediately reacted to the comment, firing back at him for what they characterize as him trying to blame Jews for the growing stockpile.

Rhodes acknowledged back in 2016 that he helped create an “echo chamber” in the media to garner support for the agreement, saying, “[The media was] saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Obama Administration’s UN Team Sought to Overturn Designation of Bin Laden Charity

Omar Al-Bashir, the now-deposed Islamist dictator of Sudan, is most likely heading to the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. However, the work of dismantling the “Islamist Deep State”—of sham charities and other institutions that he set up to keep his genocidal regime in power—are ongoing. Yet newly available documents show that, just a few years ago, not only did the Obama administration fund one such charity, the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA or IARA), but sought to overturn its designation based on vague claims of unfair persecution made at the United Nations.

ISRA was designated as a terrorist funding charity in 2004 because of its connections to Osama bin Laden. Indeed, it purchased the satellite phone used to direct the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. ISRA also lost its “special consultative status” at the United Nations as a result of the U.S. designation, which was not subsequently re-granted because of ISRA’s apparent unwillingness or inability to answer questions repeatedly posed by the United States about its activities.

ISRA received funding from the United States Agency for International Development.

Nonetheless, ISRA became a key “local implementing partner” for the U.S. international aid charity World Vision, in spite of U.S. sanctions, because of its closeness with Bashir. Through World Vision, ISRA was consequently the recipient of taxpayer dollars from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as from the United Nations.

Previously unreported, however, is that ISRA continued to lobby at the United Nations, claiming that it had been wrongly targeted by the U.S. Treasury Department simply because it was Islamic. Shockingly, senior officials in the Obama administration were keen to accommodate the bin Laden funding charity.

Emails obtained by the Middle East Forum under the Freedom of Information Act clearly show that Jeremy Weinstein, deputy ambassador to the United Nations under U.N. Ambassador Samantha Powers, sent an email to John Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury Department, asking:

Israel dramatically widens coronavirus rules, adds EU nations to quarantine list

Israel on Wednesday announced a series of dramatic new measures and restrictions intended to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, sending arrivals from five Western European nations into immediate quarantine and limiting mass gatherings throughout the country.

All Israelis returning from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland were instructed to enter self-quarantine for a period of 14 days after their last day in those countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a Health Ministry press conference alongside Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and other top officials.

The decision applied retroactively to all who have come from those nations in the last 14 days.

Foreign citizens arriving from those countries will not be allowed into Israeli unless they can show a proven ability to self-quarantine at a home during their stay.

An earlier report had said the US could also be added to the list of countries, but the country was absent from the Wednesday afternoon announcement, despite a dramatic increase of cases stateside.

In addition, tourists who have been to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon in the 14 days before their arrival in Israel will not be allowed in.

Despite coronavirus fears, inbound tourism increased in February

Despite travel fears caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Tourism Ministry said Israel still enjoyed an increase in inbound tourism in February compared to last year.

A total of 344,000 tourists entered the country in February, an increase of 0.5% compared to February 2019, and a 14.7% increase since February 2018. Since the turn of the year, Israel has welcomed 652,500 visitors, representing a 4.1% increase compared to the same period last year.

“Tourism in Israel is registering tremendous achievements when, for three years, all-time records are broken every month for tourist arrivals – records that bring in tens of billions into the state coffers,” said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

“Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus, the number of tourists arriving in Israel did not decline, but registered an additional increase. Alongside this achievement, it should be emphasized that the continued spread of the coronavirus is expected to reduce the number of tourists that will arrive in the coming month.”

Inbound tourism in February is estimated to be worth NIS 1.7 billion ($493m.) to the Israeli economy, the Tourism Ministry said.

El Al to fire 1,000 workers due to coronavirus impact

El Al is expected to make 1,000 permanent and temporary staff redundant in the coming days, the Israeli airline said on Wednesday as it rolled out a series of cost-cutting measures implemented to “ensure the future” of the company.

The figure represents almost one-sixth of the airline’s entire workforce and comes amid a severe decline in revenues as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak. In addition, company executives and directors will be subject to a 20% wage cut, taking effect retroactively since March 1.

“I am determined to do everything to ensure the future of the company and to act with courage, openness and fairness,” said El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin following an urgent meeting with worker union representatives. “This is a difficult day for us, and the steps that we have decided are taken with a feeling of pain combined with responsibility and personal example… The move is part of a series of steps being taken to enable the company to overcome the crisis and emerge from it stronger.”

Announcing that it would “eliminate all non-essential expenses at this time,” El Al said it would immediately halt the training and recruitment of all new employees until further notice.

El Al said it expects revenues to drop by $50 million to $70m. between January and April as a result of the outbreak, resulting from a “significant drop” in demand and wide-ranging travel restrictions imposed by the Health Ministry.

Chief Rabbi: Afraid of coronavirus? Don’t kiss the mezuzah

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau issued a ruling on Wednesday that people should stop kissing the mezuzah when they enter or depart Jewish homes.

A mezuzah is a scroll that contains the paragraphs from Hebrew scripture, including the Shema, which declares the oneness of God. It is enclosed in a small case and attached to many of a dwellings’ doorposts.

“In these days, where sadly we see the spread of a terrible disease, there is doubt that one should not kiss mezuzot or even touch them,” Lau wrote. “It is enough for a person to reflect on the verses written in the scroll when he enters or departs from a place, and these thoughts will accompany him on his way.”

Under Jewish law, there is a distinction between a custom [minhag] and a binding law that all observant Jews must follow. Kissing the mezuzah is a Jewish custom.

Major Israeli cannabis summit postponed amid coronavirus concerns

A major medical cannabis summit scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv later this month has been postponed until June, becoming the latest international hi-tech gathering to fall victim to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The two-day CannaTech Tel Aviv conference, expected to showcase Israeli cannabis expertise for a fifth consecutive year, attracted over 1,200 participants from more than 40 countries last year. Citing the spread of the coronavirus and recommendations from both Israeli and global health authorities, the popular summit will now be pushed from March 30-31 to June 15-16.

Also postponed is the PsyTech Summit, Israel’s first conference focusing on innovation and investment in psychedelic medicine, created by the organizers behind CannaTech.

“Our No. 1 concern is the health and safety of our attendees and speakers, our partners, our colleagues and our vendors,” said CannaTech founder and iCAN Israel-Cannabis CEO Saul Kaye. “While we are disappointed to postpone both CannaTech Tel Aviv and PsyTech Summit, we are very confident it will be worth the wait.”

According to a recent report by cannabis market data consultants Prohibition Partners, the global legal cannabis market is forecast to be worth up to $103.9 billion by 2024. The two largest markets are expected to be Europe ($39.1b.) and North America and Canada ($37.9b.).

Contrary to The Times’ claim, Joint List is not “left-wing”

Anshel Pfeffer knows better.

The Times’ British-born Jerusalem correspondent and long-time Haaretz journalist – though one the most moderate and lucid contributors to the hard-left Israeli daily – is an extremely well-informed reporter and analyst on Israeli politics.

So, we were scratching our heads when we saw the following passage in Peffer’s March 3rd Times column on the Israeli elections (“Israeli election exit poll: Benjamin Netanyahu two seats from victory after stunning comeback”).

Israel’s left-wing parties, with the exception of the Arab-dominated Joint List, have been trounced. Mr Netanyahu is rampant and no one should now bet against him forming a government and staying out of jail.

As Pfeffer surely must know, there is little that’s “left-wing”, progressive or woke about the Joint List.

As Liel Leibovitz demonsrated in an article at Tablet, Joint List is made up of four different parties, including Muslim Brotherhood supporting Islamists, and several of their MKs have expressed support convicted terrorists.

Joint List MK Heba Yazbak, for instance, has shown support for Samir Kuntar, the Lebanese terrorist who took part in a brutal 1979 terror attack in Nahariya, killing 31-year-old Danny Haran in front of his 4 year old daughter Einat, before using the butt of his rifle to crush the girl’s skull. Further, as our colleague Sean Durns reported, the party’s co-leader, Mtanes Shehadah, recently posted a photo of himself hugging Samir Sarsawi, a terrorist who spent 30 years in prison for throwing hand grenades on Jewish pedestrians. And, In 2016, former Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi Zoabi and two other Balad colleagues met family members of terrorists who perpetrated deadly attacks against Israelis – terrorists who they called ‘martyrs’.

On LGBT rights, the Joint List’s party platform says nothing about gay marriage, and, in 2018, only two of the 13 Joint List MK’s said, in response to a journalist’s inquiry, that they personally support such same-sex unions (five expressed their opposition and six didn’t answer.) By contrast, within the overall electorate, 79% of Israelis support gay marriage or civil unions. The centrist Blue and White Party party, in contrast, as well as all the truly left-wing parties, promises to pass legislation permitting same-sex civil unions.

Joint List candidate poised to become the first hijab-wearing MK

Iman Khatib-Yassin appeared to be poised on Tuesday to secure a spot in the Knesset and become the first hijab-wearing Knesset lawmaker in Israel’s history, as preliminary election results showed her Joint List party surging to 15 seats.

Khatib-Yassin holds the 15th slot on the Joint List, an alliance of four Arab-led factions. She is a member of Ra’am, which is affiliated with the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and has never had a female representative in the Knesset.

The Arraba native is 55, married and a mother to three sons and a daughter.

Before running for Knesset, she worked as the head of a community center in Yafa an-Naseriyye, located in the Lower Galilee, where she now lives, for 14 years.

In a video published on the Joint List Facebook page in February, Khatib-Yassin said she “especially wants to raise the voice of women” as well as that of vulnerable and marginalized persons and “our youth.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree at Haifa University in social work and a master’s degree at Tel Aviv University in women’s affairs.

Khaled Abu Toameh:Palestinians ‘deeply disappointed’ by rise of right-wing bloc

Palestinians expressed disappointment and deep concern over the results of Monday’s election, saying increased support for right-wing parties was a sign Israelis have voted for the “continuation of the occupation.”

But Arab citizens of Israel welcomed the increase in power of the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties, from 13 to 15 seats. Several Arab Israelis also expressed concern over the rise of the right-wing bloc, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

The Palestinian Authority said while it views the results of the election as “an internal Israeli affair,” the Palestinians won’t allow the outcome of the vote to undermine Palestinian rights.

“We only care about preserving our legitimate national rights, first and foremost Jerusalem and its holy shrines,” said PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh. “We won’t allow anyone to liquidate our cause.”

The Palestinians were prepared to deal with any Israeli government that “commits to achieving a just and comprehensive peace that is based on international resolutions to establish an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders,” he said.
The Palestinians “will thwart all conspiracies that aim to eliminate our national cause and will emerge triumphant,”Abu Rudaineh said.

MEMRI: Egyptian Author: The Palestinians Must Focus On Living, Not On Self-Sacrifice, And Strive For Peace With Israel

In a February 24, 2020 article headlined “If I Were Palestinian” in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian author and journalist Khalid Al-Bari compared the Palestinians’ perception of their cause to the misdiagnosis of a disease, which not only fails to solve the problem but actually aggravates it. He called on them to assess their situation objectively in order to attain a solution that will afford them a dignified life.

In seeking a solution, he said, the Palestinians must take into consideration that Israel is powerful, that the Arab support for the Palestinian cause is not unlimited, and that all those who market old and erroneous solutions to the conflict do not have the Palestinians’ interests at heart. He urged them to give up the idea of armed struggle and self-sacrifice, strive for peace with Israel, and focus on establishing vibrant communities and effective self-government in part of historic Palestine, in order to start living their lives.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]
“A relative of mine had a stomachache during her pregnancy and went to the doctor, who diagnosed a bacterial infection in her liver and told [her family] to give her sweets in order to counter her low sugar levels. Her family… indeed fed her caramel cream in unusually large amounts.

“There are two kinds of misdiagnosis, both of them serious. One kind [misidentifies] the reasons for the illness, and you [waste] time getting treated for a disease you do not have, while the real illness spreads through your body. This kind of misdiagnosis is a disaster. The second kind is an [even] bigger disaster, because you receive the opposite diagnosis [from the correct one], which not only ignores and neglects the real disease, but actually aggravates it.

“The same phenomenon is also common in political diagnoses. We misdiagnose the political disease and treat it in a way that deepens our disregard of [the real problem] or reinforces the factors that caused it, instead of removing them. Sometimes the misdiagnosis is provided by our rivals who openly declare their hostility towards us.

MEMRI: Syrian Columnist: Russia Is Doing To Syrian Civilians What The Nazis Did To The Jews In Auschwitz

Against the backdrop of the January 23, 2020 conference in Jerusalem marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and amid the escalating deadly attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, on the Idlib and Aleppo districts in northwestern Syria, Ibrahim Al-‘Alwash, a columnist for the oppositionist weekly ‘Enab Baladi, posted an article titled “The Syrian Auschwitz.” In the article, he wrote that what the Syrian civilians are suffering today resembles what was done to the Jews in Nazi Germany, and that Russia is the one presiding over this “Syrian Auschwitz.” Having learned the Nazi methods, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now eagerly using them to crush the Syrians, he said. Al-‘Alwash also criticized the world for commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz while ignoring the massacres that Russia and the Assad regime are perpetrating in Syria. He concluded that, just as Auschwitz did not cause the Jews to endorse Nazism and abandon their struggle against it, the “Syrian Auschwitz” will not cause the Syrians to accept the Assad regime or forgive those who have tormented them.

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]
“Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the events [in Jerusalem] marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. At the same time, he is sponsoring the great Syrian Auschwitz, which is currently taking place in broad daylight in northern Syria, and involves the expulsion of half a million Syrians who have been cast into the desert along with their wives and children, in the bitter cold of December and January. This is in addition to six million who have already been driven [from their homes since the beginning of the war], and a million who have been killed or injured [in Syria] by Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime. Putin is [in fact] proud of these actions, and regards them as heroism, although he is targeting civilians and systematically butchering them with his planes and missiles, in the guise of fighting terror.

“[Putin] is torturing families and leaving children to die in the bitter cold. News agencies and social media are full of pictures of children trudging through the mud in the cold and the rain, and families fleeing the Russian airstrikes with their meagre belongings, having been driven from their villages and homes for the second or third time [since the start of the war]. They are headed to temporary camps, [but] those are also bombarded, forcing their residents to leave them for other camps. The images of the displaced and persecuted Syrians may be the closest thing today to [the sight of] the victims of Auschwitz, who were driven from their homes and sent from one torture camp to another until finally meeting their death!!

“Nazi Germany build the Auschwitz death camp and perpetrated heinous massacres there against the Jews. It tortured them and their families, and perfected technologies of mass murder, from crematoria and gas [chambers] to death by starvation, for it regarded [the Jews] as lacking any human rights. This is exactly how the Russians are treating the Syrians today, when they spare no advanced weapon or even chemical agent [in killing them], while their crimes are broadcast in the digital [media]. All this, in order to suppress the Syrian revolution and cause the Syrians to reembrace the fascism of the Assad regime, the torture, and the killing of their children – [and all] under the pretext of a struggle against the West that disrespects Russia.

Vice president said infected, as Iran’s virus death toll climbs to 92

Iran announced Wednesday that the new coronavirus has killed 92 people amid 2,922 confirmed cases across the Islamic Republic, the highest death toll in the world outside of China.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the new figures — including the 15 new deaths — at a news conference in Tehran, raising Iran’s death toll from the new illness to higher than Italy’s, where there has also been a serious spike in infections.

There are now over 3,140 cases of the new virus across the Middle East. Of those outside Iran in the region, most link back to the Islamic Republic.

The virus has sickened top leaders inside Iran’s civilian government and Shiite theocracy, and one has died. On Wednesday, the IranWire news site reported that the country’s first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri had tested positive and was undergoing treatment, according to Reuters. There was no official confirmation.
Shoppers wearing face masks and gloves shop at the Palladium Shopping Center, in northern Tehran, Iran, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran stands alone in how the virus has affected its government, even compared to hard-hit China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 90,000 people and caused over 3,100 deaths.

Friday prayers in Iran have been canceled across all provincial capitals amid the country’s growing coronavirus outbreak, state television said.

Iran’s Judo World Champion Mollaei to Fight For Mongolia in Tokyo

World judo champion Saeid Mollaei of Iran, who fled his country last year, will compete at this year’s Tokyo Olympics for Mongolia after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved his nationality switch on Tuesday.

The 2018 world champion fled Iran for Germany after saying he had been pressured by Iranian authorities to drop out of his quarter-final and semi-final at last August’s world championships in Tokyo to avoid a potential final with Israel’s Sagi Muki.

Mollaei refused to return to Iran over fears for his safety after ignoring the orders from the country’s National Olympic Committee and government.

He was initially accepted as a refugee in Germany and then made the switch to Mongolia.

That move did not require the normal three-year waiting period for athletes changing national teams as Mollaei had previously been recorded as a refugee.

Mollaei’s case was not the first time athletes from Arab nations or Iran had been ordered to pull out or had refused to compete with Israeli athletes at the Olympics or other international competitions.

Since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has refused to recognize Israel as a country and the two have been arch-enemies for decades.

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